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Thursday, September 29, 2011


Well, I'm violating a few of my own rules here.  One, I'll be talking about sports. Two, it'll be controversial.  And, three, I will probably lose readers and offend friends.

Oh, well.

But I hope you'll stick around for what I believe will be a transcendent piece about love, hope, and forgiveness, one which will not divide, but rather bring us all together, Democrat and Republican, the beautiful and the homely, the Yankee fan and the Sox fan.


Let me tell you a story about a little boy in 2004.  Now this young scrap (fresh out of a long-term residential treatment facility) had been a Yankee fan his whole life. Born in 1970, he had vague recollections of Bucky (Fucking) Dent, the Yankee victory and the 1978 World Series.  The stronger memory, however, was of the 1980s, a decade devoid of not only a Yankee World Championship, but damn near everything else worthwhile, too.  The '80s, for those who didn't come of age then, can be a fun, kitschy thing.  Now.  Shoulder pads.  Neon.  White sports' coats and shoes without socks.  The shitty synthesizers and overly reverbed drums.  But growing up in the '80s wasn't as much fun as they make it sound on TV, I promise you.

There wasn't much for a string-bean-thin-weirdo farmboy to do to pass his dark days on the farm.  There was always cow-tipping, which I heard of often, though never would think to participate in.  There were sports.  At which I sucked.  I loved all the girls (TracyAllisonAnneMelissa), but nobody wanted to date a dweebo like me, who spent most of his schooldays hanging with the ugly people in the art room or running around the farm (san shirt) stabbing a pitchfork into the ground trying to snag a gopher.

I had baseball.  Couldn't play it.  But fucking loved it.  The Yankees, in particular. Die hard, bled pinstripes and all that.  Used to dress up every year in my full Yankee uniform for my birthday party every year.  The other kids who came just wore jeans and stuff.  I wore full-on pinstripes, head to toe.  I did this until I was 14, I believe.

Now if you are even a casual fan, you know that the New York Yankees have 27 World Championships, significantly more than any other team.  You might also know that the Red Sox are our biggest rival, sworn enemy and all that.  If you are a Yankee fan, you are raised to hate the Red Sox.

During the 1980s, the Yankees never won a World Title.  Come the '90s, they sucked something fierce, barely watchable by the time I packed my bags and headed out west to San Francisco.  Now, in the mid-'90s, the Yankees were a force again, winning four in five years.  But I didn't see any of them.  I was a junkie living in shooting galleries and skid row hotels.  Any TV I got my hands on I hocked for drugs.  When I sobered up, it was just in time to catch the Yanks' 2001 Season, which ended with heartbreaking defeat against the Diamondbacks.

So despite being a fan of the most successful sporting franchise going, I never saw them win it all.  Not once.  In 2003, they were back in the Series against the Marlins, after an exhausting 7-game affair with the dreaded Sox, but they lost.  Then came 2004.

Oh, 2004...

Up until last night, 2004 was the biggest choke in the rivalry, in the entire history, between the two teams. It was the only time in baseball history that a team was up 3-0, and lost the Series. The Yankees were the ones that had been up 3-0; the Red Sox were the ones who came back.  I lived in New England at the time, in a heavily pro-Sox region.  It was rough.  I essentially shut myself off from all media--no Internet, no TV, no radio, for fear someone might even causally reference the Yankee's historic collapse.  So successful was my plugging out, that when I finally emerged from the cave in early 2005 for lunch with a friend and he said something about the tsunami that obliterated Thailand, I stared back, blankly.

"What tsunami," I asked.

I've had to hear about 2004 for the last 8 years, how the Yankees' were the biggest chokers ever.  Personally, I didn't think the Yanks had any business being up 3-0 in the first place; the Sox that year were a better team.  Still, when it comes to sports, bragging rights are everything.  The Sox won it all in 2004.  And again in 2007.  2 Championships before I ever saw my boys win one.  (The Yankees did win it in 2009, and I finally was able to celebrate.)

All of which brings us to this.  First, allow me to repost an article from NESN. (NESN is the Red Sox sports' channel.)  This article appeared before the start of the 2011 Baseball Season, essentially anointing Boston as the greatest team ever, one that would exceed 100 wins and very likely go down in the lore and the stat books as The.  Greatest.  Team.  Ever.  Probably be the first team to win two Championships in a single season, they were going to be that good.

2011 Red Sox Will Challenge 1927 Yankees for 
Title of Greatest Team in Major League History
by Eric Ortiz on Sun, Jan 2, 2011 at 7:41AM   Comments 192
The Red Sox have won 100 or more games three times in their 110-year existence.
They will make it four in 2011.  But this team has the potential to accomplish something
even bigger than winning 100 games.
The last time the Red Sox reached the 100-win mark was 1946, when they went 104-50-2
and lost the World Series to the Cardinals in seven games.
Prior to that, the Red Sox posted 101 wins in 1915 and 105 in 1912. Both seasons ended
with World Series titles.
Will the duck boats be rolling through the streets of Boston again next fall?
Bookmakers like the Red Sox’ chances. Current odds put them at 9-2 to win the 2011 World 
Series.  Only the Phillies, at 7-2, are bigger favorites, with the Yankees not far behind at 5-1
Championships, of course, aren’t won in January. But championship teams are built during the
offseason, andTheo Epstein has put together a roster that would make Branch Rickey proud.
Look at the starting lineup.
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Carl Crawford, LF
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Kevin Youkilis, 3B
David Ortiz, DH
J.D. Drew, RF
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
Marco Scutaro/Jed Lowrie, SS
Speed. Power. Plate discipline. This lineup has it all. Good luck finding a hole from 1 to 7.
Saltalamacchia is a bit of a wild card, but the 25-year-old could be ready for a breakout season.
And whoever is the starting shortstop -- Scutaro or Lowrie -- gives the Red Sox one of the
toughest No. 9 hitters in the game.
Besides a potent offensive attack, the Red Sox will boast airtight defense, perhaps the best of
any team in baseball.
Turn to the bench, and manager Terry Francona has plenty of options.
Mike Cameron, OF
Darnell McDonald, OF
Marco Scutaro/Jed Lowrie, INF
Jason Varitek, C
Youth, experience and versatility will ride the pine like lions waiting to hunt. Depth won’t be
a problem, especially with players like Ryan KalishLars Anderson and Josh Reddick on the
In 2010, the Red Sox scored 818 runs (second-most in the majors), or 5.1 per game. They hit 211
home runs (second in MLB) and posted a .790 OPS (tops in MLB). The offense, with even more
weapons now, could demolish those numbers.
Yet one run is all it might take to win a game on some days with the starting staff the Red Sox
have assembled.
Jon Lester, LHP
Josh Beckett, RHP
John Lackey, RHP
Clay Buchholz, RHP
Daisuke Matsuzaka, RHP
Lester is a Cy Young winner waiting to happen. Beckett will notch more than six victories.
Lackey should be better equipped to avoid the one-bad-inning syndrome. Buchholz has
become a force. And Dice-K might be the best No. 5 starter ever. The Japanese right-hander
is the only pitcher in the rotation who’s never been an All-Star, but this could be the year he
ends that streak.
Every Red Sox starting pitcher has something to prove. While the Phillies might be the popular
choice as the best rotation in baseball, don’t be surprised if people are singing a different tune
come October.
When Red Sox starters have to hand the ball to the bullpen this season, Boston fans won’t have
to have to cover their eyes and pray. The weak link in 2010 could be one of the best relief corps
in the business.
Tim Wakefield, RHP
Scott Atchison/Matt Albers, RHP
Hideki Okajima, LHP
Dan Wheeler, RHP
Bobby Jenks, RHP
Daniel Bard, RHP
Jonathan Papelbon, RHP
Okajima is the only known left-handed quantity. But youngster Felix Doubront has talent and
should see some action. Rich HillLenny DiNardo and Andrew Miller also could contribute.
The right-handers in the mix all bring experience and different styles to the fire. Need long relief?
Call on Wakefield to disrupt hitters’ timing. Need a middle-inning specialist to get key outs?
Wheeler knows how to do the job, and Atchison proved serviceable last season. Albers could be
a diamond in the rough. Want heat? Jenks and Bard throw seeds. Want to turn out the lights?
Papelbon is pitching for a contract, so trust he will be ready to show he’s far from washed up.
Reliability and consistency -- foreign concepts to Boston’s bullpen last season -- will be common
words associated with this group.
Every day should feel like Christmas for Curt Young, the new Red Sox pitching coach. The former
A’s pitching coach didn’t have anything close to the horses he has now, and Oakland’s staff posted
a 3.56 ERA last season, the best in the American League and fourth-best in the majors. Imagine what
he can do with a Grade A collection of arms.
The Red Sox were slated to win about 95 games last year. They won 89 despite injuries to Pedroia
(a former MVP) and Youkilis (a possible future MVP). Add them back, along with the new players
and a healthy Ellsbury, and 100 wins doesn’t just appear plausible. It seems downright inevitable.
So does a date with history.
The 2001 Mariners won 116 regular-season games to set the American League record for most wins
in a single season and tie the 1906 Cubs for the major league record (though the North Siders
accomplished the feat in 152 games). Both those teams failed to win the World Series. The Cubs lost
to the White Sox in six games in the Fall Classic. The Mariners didn’t even make it that far, falling to
the Yankees in five games in the ALCS.
The Red Sox have no intention of suffering a similar fate. The way they are constructed, they could
surpass the 116-win mark, but nothing less than a World Series title will make Boston happy.
The 2011 Red Sox possess all the pieces to have a season for the ages. If everything falls into place
and the breaks go their way, they could do more than set records and become champions. They could
do more than take their place on Immortality Peak and end up being mentioned in the same sentence
as legendary clubs of the past: the 1929 A’s, the epic Yankees teams of the ‘30s, the 1970 Orioles, the
1976 Reds.
The 2011 Red Sox could accomplish a feat that has never been done. They could unseat the 1927 
Yankees as the greatest major league team of all time.
That would be something to celebrate.
How will the 2011 season play out for the Red Sox? Share your thoughts below.

Um, not quite.

As you may or may not know by now, last night the Boston Red Sox redefined 
the biggest choke.  Never had a team blown a 9-run lead in September.  On Sept. 1, 
The Sox were up 1 1/2 games on the Yankees.  The prohibitive favorite all year, 
they proceeded to lose, well, just about all their games, culminating with last night
particularly painful defeat.

I am a Yankee fan, which makes me a McCoy.  And as such, I fucking hate the 

But rather than take this opportunity to mock my enemy, further squash his spirits,
kick the dog when he's down, rather, in the spirt of bipartisanship, I seek to embrace 
our differences, extend an olive branch, because we all love baseball.  Let us not 
remain a (baseball) nation divided anymore!

I know how much you Boston fans are hurting right now.  Just like I hurt in 2004.
I wouldn't wish that pain on anyone (especially not you, Rich and Jimmy).

So let me offer you some advice on how to get through it.

1.) Don't blame the Yankees.  I blamed the Sox in '04.  But for what?  The Yankees
controlled their own destiny.  Just as the Sox did this year.  In each case, the teams
fucked themselves.

2.) Don't turn on a TV, the Internet, a radio.  Fuck, just to be safe, don't leave the 
house.  And for the love of God, do not answer the phone. Life for you now is like 
the '80's all over again.  They've dropped the big one.  Wait out the fallout.

3.) Understand that it's just a game.  That some teams win and some...teams... 
HAHAHA.  Sorry about that one.  Yeah, this one won't work.

4.) Aw, fuck, just root against the Yankees in the playoffs.  It's all you got.  
Listen, the Yankees aren't going all the way this year, not with Freddy Garcia pitching
Game 3 and our having to face Verlander 2x in a short series.  We're just going farther
than you.  Welcome to becoming a Detroit, Texas, Rays or NL team fan.

For one thing we can all agree on, Yankee and Sox alike: on any given night, we have 
two favorite teams: our team and whichever one is playing the other.

Now to cheer up all my Red Sox friends, here's a video of some singing kittens.

(Oh, and why not?)

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At September 29, 2011 at 10:00 AM , Blogger Joe Clifford said...

From Tom Hazuka:

Brilliant, Joe. As a Yankees fan since 1962, when I was six, I'm always quick to counter folks who say anyone can root for a winner. Well, the Bombers were the Bummers for virtually all of my childhood. I grew up following a series of mostly dreadful Yankees teams until they finally won in 1977. I paid my dues as a loyal fan.

At October 1, 2011 at 5:00 PM , Blogger Ronnie said...

Since I'm the old guy, I grew up when the Yankees were winning everything and the only team that could stop them were the Dodgers with Sandy Koufax. Or, the '54 Indians who won a record amount of games that year and had one of the greatest pitching staffs of all time. Matter of fact, I was a Giant fan back then because I lived in Manhattan and the Yankees played in the Bronx, of course. Joe, I hope the Yankees win it all this year just for you. They've assembled a great team and were underrated because of the hype for the dreaded Sox. I enjoyed your article, but I find New Englanders in general are very obnoxious, and, by the way, I hate almost all Republicans. Love ya, Howie

At October 1, 2011 at 5:21 PM , Blogger Joe Clifford said...

Which is why I love you, Howie... ;)

At October 2, 2011 at 11:06 AM , Blogger Ronnie said...

Maybe we'll be gay in our next life and hook up. Howie


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